“Everybody’s trying to be a superhero,” Maxo says about what he sees around. “It’s weird.” While most artists in the genre are flaunting an impenetrable persona—free of fear, worry or doubt —his approach is different. The Los Angeles rhymer instead chooses to write about the human happenings in his day-to-day life, ones that listeners ideally will connect with ease. “I’m not trying to be portrayed as something I’m not.” he starts, I’m me. I’m regular people. I just want to speak for people who are themselves.” Growing up, MAXO split time between LA’s Ladera Heights and Inland Empire sects. Though his music is less based on where he’s from and more about what’s going on between his ears and “how I’m feeling.” MAXO, 23, started recording his musings just a few years ago, inspired by his older brother’s struggles in coping with the world around him. “That was around the time of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin,” MAXO recalls clearly. “Just being a Black man will take a toll on you, whether you recognize it or not. That, in combination with trying to find yourself. It will drive you crazy. He lost his shit.” A middle child (he has a younger brother), it was tough to see his older bro—who loved to rap—hit a rough patch. When society stressed him out of his love of music, MAXO picked it up for him. “It was for very therapeutic reasons,”MAXO says of becoming an artist. “I just needed healing. [My brother] is why I started rapping.” His first project was unpolished winter 2015 mixtape Afterhours, recorded on cassettes, dubbed to digital and loaded up on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Though unrefined, it connected with those who happened upon it. Notes from fans encouraged him to keep going. “I noticed people hitting me on Direct Message with personal shit,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that my personal situations had people feeling it and connecting it to their own lives.” MAXO used his three-week trip to Senegal in October of 2017, to figure out where he’d land in the music world. MAXO opted for Def Jam. Now he’s gearing up for the release of his latest project, Lil Big Man. It drops March 15 and will be his debut label release. Between pulls of marijuana on lowkey opener “Time,” MAXO thinks back to words instilled in him by his parents “Momma told me, ‘You better stay you and smile every day,’” he says on the cut. Pops taught him that not everyone is a friend.As an organ cries throughout the song “In My Penny’s,” MAXO/ raps about his brother’s struggles. “Dreams stretching from here to Venus,” he spits, “because you’re seeing that them streets really be sweeping niggas that are your color, like your blood and your brother.” Moments like this come often on Lil Big Man. “It’s an album about me growing into a man,” he says. “Living through fickle friendships. Being Black. Just life and coming into my own.” Before stretching into his lanky, roughly 6’5 frame, as a toddler family called him MAXO-Fatso—an affectionate nickname given to him because he was such a chubby baby. The latter part of the moniker has dropped for obvious reasons. Nowadays the only thing heavy about him are his lyrics, which are thoughtful and born from his admittedly pensive ways. “I be in my thoughts a little too much,” MAXO says with a smirk. “It’s unhealthy sometimes.” “Crown Heights” finds him profoundly reflecting on the system’s impact on his family and black men in general. . There are real role models in my family that I’m missing out on due to them being unjustly in the system.” “And ‘Bug doing life/ I hope he sees me in there,” he raps there. “On the TV in there/ And when I hold my trophy high just throw you weed in the air.” Allowing his family and fans to win through him is important to MAXO. The potential for someday accepting a Grammy award excite him, but his goals are a bit loftier.“I want to see the heights of this shit,” he says. “We’re in a drought if you’re looking for leaders and people being themselves.You don’t have to be the person in front of the camera all the time. You can just be yourself and people will flock towards that. I want to bring individuality back. I want to make that cool again.”

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